TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT October 2009

TOP TEN

Ian Kiaer

British installation artist Ian Kiaer is currently participating in the 10th Biennale de Lyon. A solo exhibition of his work will open this month at the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Turin, Italy.

  1. ARMY AND NAVY STORES/HOUSE OF FRASER VICTORIA (LONDON)

    It may be that shopping here is no more distinctive than shopping at any other generic department store, yet I remain as affected by the experience today as I was while growing up in Victoria in the ’70s. Housed within the building’s gray marble and brown glass interior, the cosmetics section presents its perfumes and colored makeups in branded vitrines. Aging chrome and glass surfaces still draw attention to the grease smudges left by those of us wanting to cover over our lines and smells.

  2. ANDREA BÜTTNER, LITTLE WORKS, 2007

    In part, Büttner’s practice is an inquiry into shame, and when there is a room full of her work, each piece seems to awkwardly undermine the next: Clumsy damp clay, for example, is pressed between wall and carpet and left to crack beneath large woodcuts of donkeys that have been mounted on shit-colored walls. For Little Works, Büttner gave her camera to a closed order of Carmelite nuns who were preparing to display their homemade icons and crochet baskets. The disarming doubt the sisters reveal when offering their work for one another’s appraisal demonstrates a humanity that, for a few moments, allows us to partake in their otherwise separate life.

    Andrea Büttner, Little Works, 2007, still from a color video, 10 minutes 45 seconds. Andrea Büttner, Little Works, 2007, still from a color video, 10 minutes 45 seconds.
  3. BRITISH SCHOOL, A FAMILY GROUP IN A GARDEN, CA. 1754 (TATE GALLERY, LONDON)

    When I saw this watercolor while still in college and burdened by problems of authenticity in painting, it helped me to consider how ideas of artifice and gesture were perhaps more interesting. It’s unclear whether we are looking at nature or an interior, with its poses, props, and painted backdrops: idle moments set before an idyllic, distant folly. As though made by Thomas Gainsborough, who was known for his broccoli models of parks, this work bears a slippage between model, painting, and stage that keeps us transfixed.

  4. PIETER BRUEGEL, PROCESSION TO CALVARY, 1564

    Bruegel’s windmill provides a panoptic view onto the world, yet, precarious and vulnerable to sudden gusts, it has none of the looming implications of Bentham’s tower. Instead, Bruegel seems to suggest the position of the painter, perhaps even from the vantage of his studio, observing from a distance the detailed incident progressing toward death’s event below.

    Pieter Bruegel, Procession to Calvary, 1564, oil on canvas, 48 3/4 x 67". Pieter Bruegel, Procession to Calvary, 1564, oil on canvas, 48 3/4 x 67".
  5. KENZO TANGE, SHIZUOKA PRESS AND BROADCASTING CENTRE (TOKYO, 1966–67)

    Like the Bruegel building, Tange’s tower looks onto a continual stream of traffic. But rather than open land, it occupies an improbable, acute-angled site of a kind particular to the high-density demands of Tokyo. To accommodate this, Tange constructed a tall, circular core with rectangular units projecting outward. Though singular in its fragmentary design, the building nonetheless speaks of an openness appropriate to mass communication, suggesting a natural component for a larger urban structure in this city of parts.

  6. CHRIS MARKER, SANS SOLEIL (1983)

    There are many moments in Marker’s film that stay with me: a metro journey that unfolds into the montaged dreams of dozing passengers, giving glimpses of manipulated images—samurai, sex, and horror films merged with an animated sequence of a train. At another point, archival footage of a dying giraffe, shot in the neck by poachers, is intercut with images of children grieving in Japan. Unsure what has just happened, the animal is shown in a state of confusion, while Tokyo appears, baring its capacity to mourn.


    Chris Marker, Sans Soleil, 1983. (Excerpt)

  7. THOMAS BERNHARD, OLD MASTERS: A COMEDY (1985)

    Bernhard uses the acerbic wit of his central character—a misanthropic music critic named Reger—to undo some of the major protagonists of Germanic high culture. Sitting in front of a Tintoretto painting, he considers Bach “a deeply embarrassing figure” while undressing Heidegger to his underpants. Yet behind the caricature lies the unease of a contemporary sensibility confronted with the idea of the whole or perfection. What follows is an unanswerable call for fragmentation and failure.

  8. KONSTANTIN MELNIKOV, CYLINDRICAL HOUSE STUDIO (MOSCOW, 1929)

    Melnikov didn’t choose his isolation but, subject to the malice of Stalin’s purges, was forced into it. No longer able to practice his trade, the architect watched as the building he had designed for living and working became a kind of professional tomb; he spent the rest of his years making paintings and revisiting past projects through ever more ambitious drawings (he died in 1972). Inside the twinned-cylinder structure, three stories of circular floors interlock at different levels, while the many hexagonal windows, rather than revealing a view, appear to turn inward, becoming esoteric sources of light.

    Konstantin Melnikov, Cylindrical House Studio, 1929, Moscow.  Interior. Photo: Igor Palmin. Konstantin Melnikov, Cylindrical House Studio, 1929, Moscow. Interior. Photo: Igor Palmin.
  9. SARA MACKILLOP, 10 IN 12, 2002

    To describe how MacKillop puts together a work is fairly simple. For 10 in 12 she placed a ten-inch record inside a twelve-inch record sleeve. And, for her recent “Jigsaw” series, she makes stacks of overturned puzzles, layering identical solved copies facedown on the floor. Yet in both instances, the utmost economy produces exquisitely beautiful works that draw out modernism’s redundancy without falling into cynical or knowing commentary. It involves saying and showing and passing over in silence.

    Sara MacKillop, 10 in 12, 2002, mixed media, 12 x 12". Sara MacKillop, 10 in 12, 2002, mixed media, 12 x 12".
  10. MINOUK LIM, NEW TOWN GHOST, 2005

    Lim arranged for a rapper to deliver slam poetry, accompanied by a drummer, on the back of a truck as it drove through the New Town Project in Yeongdeungpo, Seoul. The absurdity of this gesture is compounded when it becomes clear that the lyrics are directives from a sighing ghost. Government development collides with ancient geomancy to the bemusement of local residents.

    Minouk Lim, New Town Ghost, 2005, still from a color video, 10 minutes 19 seconds. Minouk Lim, New Town Ghost, 2005, still from a color video, 10 minutes 19 seconds.